Saturday, March 13, 2010

January and February: School Starts and a Cyclone

Hi everyone! It’s now March and I’m just getting around to putting up a new post. There’s been so much that’s happened since January, so I’ll just go briefly over the main events:

Month of January: Pretty uneventful. I didn’t do much, just hung out at my house most of the time, waiting for the madness to begin. I did manage to get my hands on a sewing machine from the Home Ec. Department, which kept me occupied for a while.

School Begins: Wow, what a change! I went from doing nothing to being busy at all times, trying to figure out what on earth I’m supposed to be doing. I have three classes- two Form 1 and a Form 5. Like pretty much all of the volunteers, despite being led to believe that I would be team-teaching, I have the classes completely to myself and definitely no observation period. So that has been a learning experience, to say the least. The main issue has just been figuring out what it is that I’m actually supposed to teach. I’ve been slowly getting more and more information, but the process has been pretty frustrating. I’ve been learning a lot as I go and getting the hang of teaching everyday, but I still feel pretty lost at times, and I feel like I spend all of my free time either grading papers or lesson planning! I also said I would help out with the Girl Guides (which is like an international branch of Girl Scouts) since all of the teachers are supposed to help with at least one of the extracurricular activities. Somehow, the other teachers decided that I should be the “captain” of it, so now it seems I’m in charge. Yikes!

Dog Saga: So my dog Scooby disappeared at the beginning of February, the first to be exact, because it was the first day of school. I went to the computer lab to use the net, and when I came back out she was nowhere to be found. I was hoping she would return during the night, but she never did. The next day I told Naite and the principle about it, and they immediately suspected that she had been taken by the police trainees next door for their ‘umu. They made an announcement to the students about it, and a couple of kids told the principle they had seen them calling to the dog. The head tutor, Maake, was in charge of the “investigation” and went to ask the police about it, who said they never saw the dog. Apparently, they got in trouble for this very thing a couple years back, when they decided to indiscriminately shoot dogs (they are allowed to shoot strays, but not dogs with collars) and ended up killing and eating the king’s brothers dog, who complained and got some people fired. Anyway, Scooby never came back, and I was really sad and angry about it, not to mention confused. A few weeks ago, some kid came up and gave me a puppy, saying it was from the police, who evidently still claim they didn’t kill her, which has added a whole new level of strangeness to everything. I was under the impression that Maake was going to complain to the Police Commissioner, but a few days ago I asked him what happened with that and he never did. Apparently, to the Tongans, the new puppy was the solution to the problem. He said I could still go complain if I want to, and I’m debating if I want to go through the hassle.

Hurricane/Tsunami Warnings: In the middle of February, Cyclone Rene hit Tonga. We were all “consolidated” which means all of us on Tongatapu came to the Peace Corps office to wait it out. We ended up staying for a couple nights, as the storm took longer than expected to pass through. I have to admit I was kind of excited then to see what a hurricane is like, but now I think one was enough for me! Staying in the Peace Corps office for nearly three days got me a little stir-crazy, and the aftermath was even worse. 

Luckily, my house was undamaged, but there was quite a bit of water on the floor that had to be mopped up, including a large puddle under the “capeti” (vinyl mat), which had to be pulled up to dry and became very smelly. Also, the power was out a few days, which made everything in my fridge go bad. Even worse, the hurricane had blown off a section of the roof of our computer lab, and several computers and the air-conditioning unit were water-damaged. The Internet was down for a couple weeks and the lab had to be moved to the staff room. When the students came back to school on Wednesday, we spent an entire day cleaning the classrooms and picking up fallen branches. So basically, the excitement of the hurricane is far outweighed by the hassles of the aftermath!

Not two weeks later, we had our second consolidation for a tsunami warning! As everyone probably knows, the earthquake in Chile caused a tsunami warning for the entire pacific region. So I was woken up at 2:00 AM to let me know we would be consolidating at 7:00, and again at 5:00 to let me know it had been moved to 6:00. Our principal and his family came by as I was getting ready to go to the office and they were nice enough to give me a ride. Once at the Peace Corps office, we were loaded up and driven to the “high point” of the island, (which really isn’t very high- the whole island is flat!) where we waited for the tsunami to hit. After waiting about 5 hours, it became apparent that it wasn’t coming, and we were taken home.

So anyway, that’s a general rundown of what I’ve been doing. I’m hoping March turns out to be less stressful than February was!


  1. Thanks for the update. I'm really sorry about your dog :( Working in the education field definitely takes up a lot of your free time. I feel your pain! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. I can at least give you advice on how to get your students to articulate certain sounds! I miss you cousin.

  2. scooby. all that trouble in ha'apai for nothing...